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Against the Odds: Wild Card Edition

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Against the Odds: Wild Card Edition

AP

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes in the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in New Orleans, Monday, Dec. 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)

OK, we all know betting on sports is illegal in 46 states, so don't do it unless you're in Vegas, Oregon, Montana or Delaware, but if you're going, you can make these bets for me.

1. Cincinnati at Houston (-3.5), Saturday, 3:30 p.m. — This is a tough one to pick given the way the Bengals came of age this year, led by a rookie quarterback and a rookie wide receiver. And Houston, at full strength, might have been the best team in the AFC. But Houston is far from full strength. Star WR Andre Johnson battled injuries all season and the Texans are on their No. 3 quarterback, T.J. Yates, a less heralded rookie than Bengals QB Andy Dalton. But the Texans have arguably the best running game in the league and one of the best defenses under former Cowboys great Wade Phillips. Playing at home will help Yates, who has been good about holding on to the ball in his limited duty this year. Foster and Ben Tate should run wild on the Bengals and the Texans pass rush will give Dalton some fits.

2. Detroit at New Orleans (-10.5), Saturday, 7 p.m. — This game has all kinds of intrigue. Two explosive offenses with two great quarterbacks and two suspect defenses. It's all the makings of a shootout, and it most likely will be one, but by the time the game ends the score won't be too close. Here's a stat for you: At home this season, the Saints are 8-0 and are also 8-0 against the spread. They have turned the Superdome into the biggest homefield advantage in the NFL, maybe professional sports. Drew Brees is playing better right now than any of his counterparts, including Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. This game will be entertaining but look for the Saints to cover.

3. Atlanta at New York Giants (-3.5), Sunday, noon — Up until a few weeks ago, it was easy to write off the Giants and their lack of a running game and their terrible secondary. Those problems now seem to be magically fixed. And Eli Manning is still playing at a high level after a few stinkers late in the season. This game is the toughest to pick as the Falcons could easily rise up and beat the Giants behind Michael Turner and their passing game which has found a new stud in Julio Jones to go opposite Roddy White. But being in the Meadowlands, give me the Giants. Now excuse me while I wash my mouth out with soap.

4. Pittsburgh (-8.5) at Denver, Sunday, 3:30 p.m. — If this game were six weeks ago, it'd be much more intriguing. But the NFL is starting to catch on to Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow and his inept passing skills. And if there's one defense that can eat a one-dimensional offensive attack alive, it's the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are no juggernaut either right now with Ben Roethlisberger battling injury and Rashard Mendenhall out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. But I'd be shocked if the Broncos can manage more than 10 points in this one and Ben can still throw the ball.

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